solar incentive programs
efficiency of the SWH system and, therefore,
greater savings to the building owner.
toward a self-sustaining
solar thermal market
The design elements of the CSI-Thermal
Program developed by the CPUC are aimed at
overcoming the identified barriers in order to
significantly increase the rate of SWH adoption
in all market segments in California between
now and 2018, when the program is set to end
(unless the money runs out first). The program
has goals of saving 585 Mtherms and 275.5 million kilowatt-hours, which equates to the installation of 300,000 single-family SWH systems,
or to 3. 2 million metric tonnes of CO2. SDG&E
territory is considered to be about 10 percent of
the state, which means its energy-saving goals
under the new CSI-Thermal Program would be
equivalent to 30,000 single-family installations.
When compared to the SWHPP, which saw 319
single-family installations in a three-year timeframe, this is certainly an aggressive goal.
California’s Assembly Bill 32 also has an
aggressive goal: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 169 million metric tonnes of carbon
dioxide equivalent, down to the 1990 level by
2020. Energy efficiency, which includes SWH, is
identified as being an important piece for reaching this goal. At the current rate of adoption,
which is estimated at being roughly 1,000 SWH
systems annually across the state, California may
fall short of these goals. This explains the importance of and need for a transformation of the
solar thermal market.
Through the use of market-facilitation funds,
the CSI-Thermal program addresses three of the
identified barriers: consumer awareness, permitting and workforce development. Ten percent of
the overall $350 million program budget is earmarked specifically for market-facilitation activities that will educate each of these market segments, such as consumer outreach workshops,
installer trainings, collaboration and training
with permitting officials and media campaigns.
The program addresses the cost barrier by
providing incentives that are initially about 20
percent of the average SWH installation cost.
Incentives are not based on the project cost, but
on the expected first-year energy displacement
of the SWH system. Basing incentives on performance ought to encourage high-performing,
low-cost systems in the market. Sixty percent of
more Information on
Solar Water Heating
Learn about solar water-heating collectors and systems at the
Solar Rating and Certification Corp.
web site: solar-rating.org.
The National Renewable Energy
Lab is the nation’s primary laboratory for renewable energy and
energy-efficiency research and
development. Check their web site
to find out how they are advancing
our nation’s energy goals: nrel.gov.
Incorporating quality-control measures into
program requirements is an essential part of
achieving a self-sustaining market. Establishing equipment standards, such as a certification
from the Solar Rating and Certification Corp.
— an independent certifying entity of SWH
equipment and systems — enables standardized comparisons of all SWH systems. Ensuring that systems are properly sized and installed
will optimize system performance and life cycle
cost-effectiveness. This can be done through
enforcing maximum sizing guidelines and on-site field inspections. Inspections help prevent
inadequate SWH installations and also provide
contractors new to the market with a learning
tool to improve future installations.
The Solar Energy Industries
Association and the American
Solar Energy Society are working
to remove market barriers, educate
the public and make solar mainstream: seia.org and ases.org.
the $280 million incentive budget is set aside
for multifamily and commercial projects, while
the remaining 40 percent is allocated for single-family residential projects. Additionally, incentives are highest at the beginning of the program
to jumpstart the market. The design is intended
to increase demand at the onset of the program,
boosting industry competition and driving
down costs. Incentives will decrease over time,
in parallel with decreasing costs, resulting in a
self-sustaining SWH market by 2018. This is the
CSI-Thermal vision for market transformation.
Finally, a significant lesson learned from the
SWHPP is the importance of education and
outreach. Once a solid rebate program has been
developed, it is time to get the word out to consumers to take advantage of the rebates while
they last. It is also important to provide consumers with the knowledge and tools needed to
make an informed decision as to whether SWH
is right for them. Workshops to educate consumers about solar thermal technology, its energy-saving potential, market trends and installation
costs, the rebate program and its quality-control
measures and how to select a contractor will
increase awareness and consumer confidence in
SWH. In turn, this will foster participation in the
California has gleaned many lessons through
past experience with SWH rebate programs. The
three most significant elements to a successful
rebate program are a collaborative development
process with industry stakeholders, a focus on
quality and a strong education and outreach
campaign. Regulators and policymakers are
often far removed from the daily operations and
challenges faced by industry professionals. When
creating rebate program requirements, it is essential to include input from those who understand
the industry best. By including equipment manufacturers and installers in the process, regulators
are better able to make decisions that will foster
participation in the rebate program.
With market transformation comes a variety
of societal benefits. SWH systems displace natural
gas or electricity, reducing demand on the transmission and distribution systems and potentially
reducing the need for expanded lines. SWH systems reduce the use of conventional fuels that
emit air pollutants, resulting in lower health costs.
Growth in the SWH industry also encourages creation of high-paying jobs in the manufacturing
and installation/maintenance sectors. Finally,
in reaching its goal of saving 585 Mtherms and
275.5 million kilowatt-hours, the CSI-Thermal
Program will have saved enough CO2 to equal
the annual carbon uptake of 117.5 million trees,
or the equivalent of removing 131,645 American
consumers from the planet for a year. California
is hoping that other states will follow its lead and
improve communities through the adoption of
solar thermal technologies.
To learn more about the CSI-Thermal Program, go to gosolarcalifornia.org/solarwater. ST